Monday, July 25, 2011

Survivors A2792, A2793


The word inspires images from a time when the darkest corners of human nature were exposed, raw and sinister and real.  What today is merely a chapter of history that most would rather turn away from is for others a part of their memory, their life story, as real today as it was seventy years ago.

On Sunday, I had the honor of meeting two such women who are both “blessed and cursed” to be burdened with such memories, having survived Auschwitz II in Berkinau, Poland.  Ruth Scheuer Siegler and her sister Ilse Scheuer Nathan, both born in Germany during the twenties, seemed bright and full of life at Ms. Siegler’s book signing for her memoir My Father’s Blessings: A Story of Survival and Triumph.

There was an amazing turnout in support of the book.  While Ms. Siegler signed copies, my wife engaged Ms. Nathan in a conversation about the Holocaust.  What I came away from listening to her recall this horrible time was her appreciation of the now. 

Hung around the room were pictures of the two sisters along with other survivors in an exhibit called Darkness into Life.  I remember one picture of a man in an apron.  In it he is holding a glass of red wine, with a fine meal spread out in a very nice kitchen.  Beside the picture is his story of life in a Nazi Concentration Camp and how he would get through a day eating only the peel from a potato.  Today he appreciates every morsel on his plate, unable to forget what life had once been like.

And this, too, was what Ilse kept insisting: Be thankful for what you have.  Because you never know. 

I am thankful for having met both women.  Their stories are inspiring and as triumphant as they are heartbreaking. 


  1. Wow - that's quite the experience. I've had the opportunity to speak with some people who are survivors as well. They've certainly had their priorities in order too. They've suffered the darkest humanity has to offer, yet they're full of hope and joy and they treasure life. Definitely role models.

  2. I agree, Jemi. Sadly, after posting this I discovered the book isn't available widely. Which is a shame. These stories should be shared as broadly as possible. They are too important not to.

  3. What a great and humbling experience meeting these women must have been. Thanks so much for sharing their experiences with us. We can all learn alot of if we let go of the bad and appreciate those quiet moments in life that are really nothing short of miraculous.